March 6, 2003: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Mountaineering: Lincoln Journal: Philippines RPCV Andrew Falender is executive director of the Appalachian Mountain Club

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Philippines: Peace Corps Philippines: The Peace Corps in the Philippines: March 6, 2003: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Mountaineering: Lincoln Journal: Philippines RPCV Andrew Falender is executive director of the Appalachian Mountain Club

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Philippines RPCV Andrew Falender is executive director of the Appalachian Mountain Club

Philippines RPCV Andrew Falender is executive director of the Appalachian Mountain Club

AMC completes its long trek back

By Nan Shnitzler / Correspondent
Wednesday, March 5, 2003

The conservation guy

Andrew Falender didn't have a 10-year plan.

He followed his passions, was open to opportunities and now he's right where he wants to be: living with his wife and two teenage children in Lincoln and working as executive director of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).

Luckily for its more than 90,000 members, Falender has been rigorous at the helm of the organization he has guided since 1989, helping to dig it out of debt, balance the budget for 15 consecutive years and raise $33 million during the recently completed capital campaign.

"I'm very fortunate to be here," he said. "Not only does this organization have an outstanding history over 127 years, but I haven't found anything else more personally challenging or exciting than what I have the opportunity to do here."

Although he thinks it's wonderful to live in Lincoln, in the kind of environment that's so important in his life, he wished he had more time to get involved in the town. Instead, he got the conservation leadership in Lincoln involved in AMC. He explained that his family persuaded their kids' friends and families to go on White Mountain trips. It wasn't a hard sell.

"I realized that the mission statement of AMC is really what people who are interested in conservation in Lincoln are all about," he noted. "It's interesting to see the overlap. From an AMC perspective, that is why our education programs are so important, to show people how to be good stewards."

Looking ahead from recent successes, Falender and his team at AMC reviewed the organization's strengths, assessed the threats to its mission and gathered input from all parts of AMC to come up with the six goals of Vision 2010 (see box), the key driver for AMC in the first decade of the new millennium.

Falender said that while AMC's annual meeting (just held on Feb. 8-9 at the Westin Hotel in Waltham) was a good time for two-way communication with members and to celebrate progress made on Vision 2010, "I think it's important to emphasize that the really great events are not the indoor events. What's exciting is getting a group of kids or adults outdoors where they are enjoying and learning."

In a photograph of a school program, the students are using ozone monitor cards. "You can sit there and tell a bunch of kids about ozone, and they'll have blank looks on their faces," said Falender. "But when you give them something to do, like these little monitoring devices, it's a hands-on type of education."

Among a myriad of projects to that end, AMC is building the Highland Center, a new facility in Crawford Notch, N.H. Funded by the capital campaign and due to open in September, Falender called it a center for adventure and learning and lodging for kids and families.

"We're trying to interest conferences and executive training sessions there, too," he said. "You could call it a social context for people to become better stewards of the environment."

Falender's early social context was Indianapolis.

"The Midwest is hardly the terrain you'd expect of someone who becomes executive director of AMC," he said wryly. "I don't know if I even saw a mountain until I was 18 years old. That's part of the reason why I have a love for these places and a passion to protect them."

After earning a degree in economics from the University of Michigan, Falender came to Harvard and completed one year of his MBA. Then he decided to take a detour. He joined the Peace Corps and went to the Philippines.

"I felt during my first year at Harvard that I didn't have some of the same obsessions for the profit making sector that some of my classmates did," he said carefully. "I had idealism from my college days, and I needed to go out and test that in the real world."

"The Peace Corp made me realize I desperately needed the skills that a Harvard Business School might provide. And so I took my second year much more seriously, not that I didn't take my first year seriously."

Detour from New York

After Harvard, a job was waiting for him in New York City. Instead, he took another detour.

"I had an interview with the U.S. Department of Housing, Education and Welfare on the same day as a major anti-Vietnam War protest." he recalled. "The idea of going to an antiwar protest at government expense was so intriguing that even though I didn't think I was interested in this job, I went anyway."

He said the people who interviewed him had no idea what he was doing there. He thought any place that was so disorganized would have plenty of opportunities and challenges. He was right.

He spent the next four years working for the Commissioner of Education, running a research grants program and combining an interest in education with business management skills.

And that's what he has been doing ever since, combining his enthusiasms with business acumen in the non-profit sector. He did it for fourteen years at the New England Conservatory of Music and to hear him tell it, he's only just beginning with AMC.

In positioning AMC relative to other environmental organizations, Falender said that AMC combines a passionate cause with significant real world operations including lodging, meals, retail, publishing and workshops.

Falender explained that more political or radical environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club or Greenpeace allow AMC to be aggressive but still look moderate.

"We have traditionally had a bi-partisan membership," he said. "And it allows us, from an advocacy basis, to be more effective."

He said he is going to Washington, DC to bring the northeast congressional delegations up to date on AMC activities and to express concern about proposed regulations on air quality, land protection and wetlands protection regulations that are counter to AMC's core values.

"Because we're focusing on moderate Republicans, they have the capability to make a difference in this arena," he said. "It's a perfect example where an AMC can come to play where a Greenpeace or Sierra Club wouldn't be as effective."

AMC engages members to advocate for conservation via the Conservation Action Network on its Web site. Those who sign up get an e-mail alert once a month to remind them of critical issues on the table. Click-and they get a model letter, the names of their congress people, and suggestions of actions to take.

"When we go into a senator's office," said Falender gleefully, "we can say, we're pleased that of your 6,700 constituents who are members of AMC, 2,000 wrote you e-mails on this subject; aren't you pleased, Senator Collins (R-Maine)?"

Falender himself may be more radical than he lets on.

"I got myself in a little trouble in church the other weekend. They asked me to give the children's message. My favorite quote is if you own an SUV versus a regular car, the incremental energy used is equivalent to leaving the refrigerator door open for seven years. So I set up these kids to ask about what they can do, turning lights off and recycling. 'How many have parents that encourage you to leave the refrigerator door open all the time?' And three raised their hands."

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Lincoln Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Mountaineering



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